Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Summer of Our Discontent

New polls show Americans unhappy with just about everything. “A very sour mood” is the Gallup conclusion.

Only 24 percent say they are satisfied “with the way things are going,” a figure that hasn’t been this low since 1992. At that time, Bill Clinton’s advisers saw a reason (“It’s the economy, stupid”) and used it to get to the White House.

According to Gallup, Americans now worry about the economy, their jobs, high gasoline prices and, since politicians started yapping about it, immigration. Yet, by most measures, the economy is doing well enough, and so is the stock market.

It’s easy to see how the war in Iraq is causing so much frustration, with voters giving the President low marks and the Congress they elected to fix things even worse approval ratings, an all-time low of 14 percent.

What’s harder to measure is the free-floating anxiety behind the numbers. How much is due to the Republican drumbeat of “If we don’t fight them there, they’ll follow us here?” How much to Democratic impotence and in-fighting over how to get us out of Iraq? How much to the noisy distrust and disgust over everything in our public life, fueled by caustic cable-news anchors and bilious bloggers competing to be heard?

Our national mood disorder isn’t helped by the endless Presidential campaign, which is getting more negative as candidates feel the pressure mounting. But somewhere in all this, there may be an opportunity for one of them to do what Ronald Reagan did in the wake of Vietnam and rampant inflation with a “Morning in America” vision.

If Gallup is right, the country could be ready for it.

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